MY HERO Theater: Womens Letters & Legacies

by Kimberly Kenna
Written By
Kimberly Kenna

Grade Level

Arts - Theater, English/Language Arts, Social Studies


Note: This lesson uses primary sources from the book, Women’s Letters: America from the Revolutionary War to the Present, edited by Lisa Grunwald and Stephen Adler.

It is a compilation of writings that highlight the lives and feelings of women throughout the last two centuries.* The original, unedited letters contained in the book provide rich insights into periods of history that would not be found in a traditional textbook. Further, and perhaps more importantly, the emotion of the letters captures the readers’ attention, drawing them in and providing a personal connection.

*If you would prefer to have your students read letters from both males and females, check out the companion book, Letters of the Century, compiled by the same editors. Also, some of the letters in both books may have themes considered too mature for middle schoolers. Middle school teachers might want to handpick the letters they use.

This is an in depth, hands-on project that can span many days or even a month, so teachers should tweak it according to their schedules. There are so many examples of heroism in this book. By reading these letters written to and from both famous people (like Annie Oakley, Jacqueline Kennedy, Amelia Earhart) and women you’ve never heard of, one understands more deeply the culture of the time. The editors provide informative historical background for each letter. Students will learn that heroes come in many forms, and that they are inspired in many different ways. By writing and presenting a skit or vignette inspired by an historical letter, students make an emotional connection with the required subject matter. This allows them to use their critical thinking skills as they are challenged to apply the knowledge in a new way. It’s a satisfying and fun way to teach and learn.
The student will… 
-demonstrate knowledge and understanding of heroes, both past and present, and how they reflect their culture and time 
-use primary sources to get facts, and then will extrapolate in order to write an historical fiction play to reflect the facts 
-use technology to do research 
-read, take notes, organize them and incorporate them into scriptwriting 
-brainstorm, write and edit a script 
-work cooperatively in a group to organize, plan and perform a play 
-understand how sound, movement, lighting, props and costumes portray what’s being expressed in the text